Boeing Faces Safety Questions After Second 737 Crash In Five Months

On 3/11/2019 at 8:18 PM, rainman said:

Boeing's bestselling passenger jet is facing increased scrutiny after being involved in two deadly crashes in less than five months, a situation that threatens to tarnish the US plane maker's reputation for safety. Chinese aviation authorities on Monday told airlines in the country to ground all their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, citing the need for "strict control of safety risks." Some individual airlines are taking similar action elsewhere. And Boeing (BA) has postponed the debut of its new 777X jetliner, which was scheduled for this week, as it deals with the fallout from Sunday's disaster in Ethiopia. The flurry of negative headlines unsettled investors. Boeing shares dropped nearly 9% in premarket trading early Monday in New York. All 157 people on board a 737 MAX 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines were killed when the plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday morning. In late October, a 737 MAX 8 flown by Lion Air went down off the coast of Indonesia, killing 189 people.Both the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air planes were brand-new aircraft. And both crashed minutes into flight. Ethiopian Airlines said Monday that it was grounding its fleet of 737 MAX planes as an "extra safety precaution," and Cayman Airways, the main carrier of the Cayman Islands, said it would do the same until "more information is received.

 

3 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

This topic is interesting enough.  Learning to fly is not that tough, IMHO, although I'm sure some of our pilot friends might beg to differ.  What's difficult is training pilots to know what is the proper action to take in any given dangerous scenario.  What I'm driving at here is the fact that pilot training these days is about getting pilots into the cockpit as fast as they can.  Software is designed to help with that goal by taking a certain amount of the normal pilot "workload" away from the pilots.  Unfortunately, in some countries and in some companies, that means teaching pilots to "fly" and hoping they can pick up the training and experience to handle the avoidance of catastrophe as they go about their duties, ON THE JOB!  So, in some cases, hopefully not too many cases, we run the risk of lesser trained pilots being faced with advanced software systems that they have not been sufficiently trained to use, either in classroom or practical format.  That seems to have been the case in the Indonesian Lion Air crash last year and MIGHT be part of the reason for the crash in Ethiopia last week.  Of course, these are just my opinions based on my years in the industry, and paying attention.

Here's a good article on the numbers from our friends at Aviation Week Network:

Pilot Shortage Is Real and Getting Worse

Not sure if you guys remember a case................... happened once upon a time somewhere in the tropics...... 

image.png.666ed870d49642ff7596580674315279.png

the plane was undetectable not long after it was taken off......... Boeing might have done a little better than that......... at least it lets people know the plane crashed and found............ 

On pilot training.......... heard some countries have upgraded to have simulator............. do they learn only take off and landing with that expensive ware??! :-o

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2 hours ago, Illurion said:

If MY FAMILY had died on that flight,   i would be demanding prison for those that could have prevented it,  and sat back and let it happen........

Unfortunately, if your family had died on either flight, one an Indonesian airline and one an Ethiopian airline, your recourse may be limited if not non-existent.  If one's family was American and one could find a group of lawyers and financiers that are interested enough to fight in U.S. courts against both Boeing and the Federal Government, you MIGHT get a settlement after many years and many millions of $$ in legal fees, etc. (ergo the group of lawyers and financiers).  Just saying....

Fact is that both Boeing and the FAA did not just sit back; they will have a very well documented trail of evidence showing they were meeting or exceeding all minimums as to fault detection and rectification,  IF anyone could actually PROVE anything was faulty other than those pesky undertrained 3rd world pilots.  They will see to it that modifications happen all right, but unless proven otherwise they will say their modifications, while on systems suspected of fault, they were not proven by any investigative authority (any investigative authority that matters, anyway) to be the cause of anything.

It is what it is...

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1 hour ago, specinho said:

On pilot training.......... heard some countries have upgraded to have simulator............. do they learn only take off and landing with that expensive ware??! 😮

Simulators and related services and instructors are available, at least regionally if not locally, all over the world.  It's sometimes more an issue with local discipline and enforcement by local civil aviation authorities.  

And keep in mind, the vast vast majority of pilots take their own training very seriously indeed, and make sure they get it.  Normally, but not always.  They are on the flights they pilot and their mothers want them to come home too.

There are also 1,000's of contract pilots from the U.S., EU, etc. flying at many airlines in the 3rd world.  Those men and women deserve a great deal of credit as relates to helping the local pilots get what they want/need (training, etc.) out of the airline and local authorities, but if you talk to those same contractors you may find that they still find local enforcement lacking in many ways.  

It is not just a saying: a failure of an aircraft or even an engine is usually the combination of a number of factors all coming together at the wrong moment in time.

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5 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Unfortunately, if your family had died on either flight, one an Indonesian airline and one an Ethiopian airline, your recourse may be limited if not non-existent.  If one's family was American and one could find a group of lawyers and financiers that are interested enough to fight in U.S. courts against both Boeing and the Federal Government, you MIGHT get a settlement after many years and many millions of $$ in legal fees, etc. (ergo the group of lawyers and financiers).  Just saying....

Fact is that both Boeing and the FAA did not just sit back; they will have a very well documented trail of evidence showing they were meeting or exceeding all minimums as to fault detection and rectification,  IF anyone could actually PROVE anything was faulty other than those pesky undertrained 3rd world pilots.  They will see to it that modifications happen all right, but unless proven otherwise they will say their modifications, while on systems suspected of fault, they were not proven by any investigative authority (any investigative authority that matters, anyway) to be the cause of anything.

It is what it is...

https://www.dallasnews.com/business/airlines/2019/03/12/boeing-737-max-8-pilots-complained-feds-months-suspected-safety-flaw

 

The FAA knew all right...      Big Time......  and did nothing.......

A VERY WELL DOCUMENTED TRAIL OF DOING NOTHING.........

 

here are some quotes:

 

Pilots repeatedly voiced safety concerns about the Boeing 737 Max 8 to federal authorities, with one captain calling the flight manual "inadequate and almost criminally insufficient" several months before Sunday's Ethiopian Air crash that killed 157 people,

 

The News found at least five complaints about the Boeing model in a federal database where pilots can voluntarily report about aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

The disclosures found by The News reference problems during Boeing 737 Max 8 flights with an autopilot system, and they all occurred while trying to gain altitude during takeoff — many mentioned the plane turning nose down suddenly. While records show these flights occurred during October and November, the information about which airlines the pilots were flying for is redacted from the database.

 

Records show that a captain who flies the Max 8 complained in November that it was "unconscionable" that the company and federal authorities allowed pilots to fly the planes without adequate training or fully disclosing information about how its systems were different from previous 737 models.

 

 

Tuesday evening, the agency issued a statement from Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell, saying that it "continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX."

"Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action," Elwell said in the statement. 

..................

 

So,  as seen in the last paragraph above,  even now,  the FAA "denies there is even a problem,  and sees no reason to do anything."

 

IF MY FAMILY HAD DIED ON THE MAX8'S,   I WOULD START WITH HAVING MY LAWYER PRESS CHARGES OF MURDER AGAINST DANIEL ELWELL,    WHO OBVIOUSLY IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

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12 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Unfortunately, in some countries and in some companies, that means teaching pilots to "fly" and hoping they can pick up the training and experience to handle the avoidance of catastrophe as they go about their duties, ON THE JOB! 

I'm pretty sure that is par for the course - hence the whole experienced Captain and copilot thing.  Of course that chain of command has caused several accidents of it's own (copilots who just watch their boss fly them into the ground because they are too afraid to speak up).

I watch a lot of Mayday... it's a great show.

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9 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Simulators and related services and instructors are available, at least regionally if not locally, all over the world.  It's sometimes more an issue with local discipline and enforcement by local civil aviation authorities.  

And keep in mind, the vast vast majority of pilots take their own training very seriously indeed, and make sure they get it.  Normally, but not always.  They are on the flights they pilot and their mothers want them to come home too.

There are also 1,000's of contract pilots from the U.S., EU, etc. flying at many airlines in the 3rd world.  Those men and women deserve a great deal of credit as relates to helping the local pilots get what they want/need (training, etc.) out of the airline and local authorities, but if you talk to those same contractors you may find that they still find local enforcement lacking in many ways.  

It is not just a saying: a failure of an aircraft or even an engine is usually the combination of a number of factors all coming together at the wrong moment in time.

thanks for the info. 

Reminded me......  besides the pilots.......... the regional-outsourced Boeing lubricant or other out-sourced engine fluid used could be a culprit too........ Historically....... anything outsourced is ruined e.g. samsung; panasonic; and apple (outcompeted by Huawei - a cheaper and more advance technology improvised unfamiliar to the west...........)

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(edited)

737 Max 8 are grounded almost everywhere now. The US and  Canada are the only nations still  flying 737 Max 8 planes.

This is maybe a result of the millions spent by Boeing to lobby Congress and the executive branch each year.

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/12/boeing-congress-1264079

Edited by Guillaume Albasini
link to article added

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7 hours ago, Illurion said:

So,  as seen in the last paragraph above,  even now,  the FAA "denies there is even a problem,  and sees no reason to do anything."

 

IF MY FAMILY HAD DIED ON THE MAX8'S,   I WOULD START WITH HAVING MY LAWYER PRESS CHARGES OF MURDER AGAINST DANIEL ELWELL,    WHO OBVIOUSLY IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.

No doubt this one is going to get interesting; hell, it is already interesting with a major portion of the world's operators and even some national authorities grounding or not allowing the model to take off or land at their airports.  Boeing stock dropped some 12% as of yesterday, the biggest drop since 9/11.

 

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3 hours ago, specinho said:

Reminded me......  besides the pilots.......... the regional-outsourced Boeing lubricant or other out-sourced engine fluid used could be a culprit too........ Historically....... anything outsourced is ruined e.g. samsung; panasonic; and apple (outcompeted by Huawei - a cheaper and more advance technology improvised unfamiliar to the west...........)

Could be, I suppose.  But the entire industry adheres to strict standards with regards to outsourcing in aviation, and we do extensive testing during and after operations to make sure the fluids and even the parts hold up.  Doubtful lubes and fluids are an issue, especially since we typically only have one or two types/manufacturers of lubes and fluids certified and used.  Mobile Jet Oil II is one such oil and, yes, even operators in far off places order and stock it by the pallet and barrel.  As I said, we test it during and after operation, including when an engine goes to shop.  Tests of the inside surfaces of engines, actuators and such.  If an operator is found to be use substandard fluids of any kind, they are shut down and any suspect aircraft are grounded until OEM clearance work is accomplished.

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I am not sure why people compare driving to flying? There is LOT more cars than planes. So, of course your chances of being injured or killed in a car accident are higher than flying. 

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(edited)

8 hours ago, Guillaume Albasini said:

737 Max 8 are grounded almost everywhere now. The US and  Canada are the only nations still  flying 737 Max 8 planes.

This is maybe a result of the millions spent by Boeing to lobby Congress and the executive branch each year.

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/03/12/boeing-congress-1264079

Canada's Transport Safety Board has decided to groud all Boeing 737 MAX airplanes until further notice. 

Edited by Bobby P

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According to this article from Reuters, the cause of the Ethiopian crash may have been much different than that of the Lion Air crash last year.

Ethiopian plane smoked and shuddered before deadly plunge

Also according to Reuters, as of today approximately 80% of the 737 MAX 8 & 9 model aircraft delivered to airlines has been grounded worldwide, leaving only the U.S. carriers operating the models (United, American and Southwest) still operating and the FAA has not issued a grounding order so far.

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Breaking news (no, I'm not Wolf Blitzer):

Trump says he has signed an order to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8

Now, even though the ENTIRE world has been complaining that the U.S. was not grounding the MAX 8s and 9s, now that Trump has done it all of his critics will say he shouldn't have been the one to do it, because it was Trump.

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4 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Breaking news (no, I'm not Wolf Blitzer):

Trump says he has signed an order to ground Boeing 737 MAX 8

Now, even though the ENTIRE world has been complaining that the U.S. was not grounding the MAX 8s and 9s, now that Trump has done it all of his critics will say he shouldn't have been the one to do it, because it was Trump.

Not at all.

They are saying that Trumps government shutdown delayed the software fix...

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On 3/12/2019 at 9:52 AM, Illurion said:

I have a very good friend who is not only a Commercial Pilot in Europe,  but used to be a pilot trainer,  and is also a PILOT RECRUITER in the middle east.........

 

He says that "outside of the United States",  pilots are NOT PAID very much..........

He says that overseas pilots go from airline to airline building up hours, and slowly getting small pay increases until they reach the flight-hours threshold for a USA Airline to hire them....

ONLY USA Airlines pay good money he says.......

But he says the USA Airlines do not want foreign pilots,  and prefer to hire "ex-American-Military-Pilots" instead.........

He also says that for some reason,  VERY FEW AMERICANS are seeking these jobs......

He says the Americans say the job isn't worth the trouble......

He says the Americans that he has talked to about it say that the money is too low,  and the hours worked are too long,  and they do not want to be away from their home and family......

Finally becoming a pilot is OK money.  In USA to get to pilot requires an immense number of hours which cost an IMMENSE amount of money, and truth is, pilot does not pay all that much compared to say.... engineering or nursing or IT which both require fewer hours to get your degree and less money.  In other countries you get these hours by flying a commercial aircraft even if utterly unqualified to do so by USA standards.  Why military pilots go commercial, they have had these hours/costs paid for by the military. 

Why lowest crash rates are in the USA, but also the highest paid.  Getting to pilot requires more input than anywhere else in the world and when the military used to be training so many more pilots than they are today, with far fewer aircraft, USA had a surplus of qualified pilots.  I see pilot wages increasing. 

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(edited)

28 minutes ago, Wastral said:

 I see pilot wages increasing. 

I don't - automation / drones

Edit: ok higher paid but many fewer.

Edited by Enthalpic

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(edited)

On 3/12/2019 at 3:38 AM, Dan Warnick said:

To your second point, you may be right.  Fact is, there is an acute shortage of pilots in the world and it is only getting worse.  Therefore, mass pilot training with as little reliance on the pilot as non-humanly possible is the name of the game now, IMHO anyway.

This story has more to it than folks realize.  First, yes, there is a pilot shortage, and it looms over the industry.  There are a number of reasons for this.  In the USA, the current pressures on available pilots stems from a single crash, that of a Colgan flight from Newark to Buffalo, which had as a Pilot in Command (PIC) a fellow with perhaps 550 hours  (that's less than me!) and had failed various tests and check rides in his short career.  The second in command (co-pilot) was a talented young woman also with relatively short hours.  Neither pilot got much sleep.  The way the industry sets up is that these "commuter" pilots working for contract carriers get paid little in exchange for "building hours" when they can advance into the trunk carriers. The contract carriers paint their planes with the colors of the major but get paid "so much per flight" and so whatever cuts costs, is incorporated by management.  Wages are a substantial expense, behind fuel, so the wages are cut. It is so low that pilots and cabin crew either have "crash pads" where they can hot-bunk for a few hours, with say 30 people chipping in to the rent for a small apartment in Queens, NYC, or they live at home.  In the Colgan Buffalo crash the co-pilot lived in Seattle, Washington, and had to commute as a stand-by flyer for 3,200 miles to Newark to pick up her plane.  And that is common in the industry.  She got what sleep she could in the pilot's lounge, on a sofa, then off to the aircraft to go fly.  It is obvious that this is a lousy arrangement.  Should the air carriers supply rooms?  Yes, of course.  Will the FAA force them to do that?  No, no chance.  So you are sending pilots into the air with inadequate rest.  That is a recipe for disaster. 

The Colgan crash was a real jar to the system.  What happened was that on final approach the poor-quality (male) pilot got into a reduced airspeed envelope at quite low altitude, and the stall-warning horn went off.  Between being tired and being a poor pilot, he reacted by pulling back on the yoke.  That was exactly the wrong response; he should have pushed the yoke forward just a touch, to lower the nose, and immediately the aircraft would have restored flying speed.   The plane went down just outside the airport in poor weather and everybody died.  Interestingly, the (woman) co-pilot was both suffering form a cold or nasal infection, had no real sleep, and despite being competent did not step in to save the aircraft (or herself). Now she is dead. 

Lots of political pressure resulted from the focus on low hours, so Congress pressed the FAA to bump up the minimum to 1,200 hours, but the catch is that some large portion has to be "turbine time," on jets, and getting that is very expensive.  Usually "time" is built in commercial light twin piston aircraft, the reason  being that these are round on some of the "essential service" routes operated by contract with the US Dept of Transportation, between far-flung rural towns.  Once a pilot reaches 500 hours in the old days he could get hired on by a contract carrier, and build up turbine time in that contract carrier before moving up to more pay and bigger machines with the majors.  SO the contract carriers were in the main the training schools for the majors.  Buffalo changed all that. 

With the expanded minimum flight time, the industry ran out of fresh pilots who worked for peanuts in exchange of building time.  The essential services flyers were paying about $9 and hour to those pilots.  With the cost of primary training and initial twin time, the whole pilot deal became too brutal financially, and the flow of recruits stopped.  Meanwhile the military, which spent some $2 million to train one pilot, started handing out huge re-enlistment bonuses to hang onto those guys, and that stream into the commercial carriers stopped.  Now the industry has a manpower shortage.  With all the guys who previously came from the Vietnam War retiring at 65, where will the next crop come from? 

Boeing's (and Airbus') response has been to build planes that have less pilot workload, so relatively inexperienced pilots with low time don't get swamped  in situations of high stress, specifically poor weather.  The first step in terms of stall warning was to supplant the usual buzzers, horns and bleats  (all of which create anxiety and distraction from flying the plane) to a device attached to the yoke, known as the "stick shaker."  The idea was that when airspeed decayed with a high angle of attack, the stick shaker would vibrate the stick or yoke and focus the pilot on low airspeed causing the horns going off and convince the pilot to lower the nose (and hopefully add throttle).  The stick shaker works on various inputs from sensor, specifically the pitot tube that gives you the aircraft airspeed.  Without a properly working pitot tube the pilot only has his visual senses to tell him if he is going fast enough to actually stay in the air, so aircraft typically have two of them installed. [There is another sensor out there called the static port which also gives an input, and the airspeed indicator needs both, but not to get too technical here.]  

SO Boeing, with the Maxx 8 and also the stretched version with more seats, called the Maxx-9, got fancy and added the aircraft equivalent of an auto engine control unit, or ECU:  that computer goes a step further than the stick shaker and automatically forced the nose down by their fly-by-wire system, with the elevators and trim tabs in the back electrically (OK, electro-hydraulic)  dropping the elevator and thus pushing the nose over.  But you see the inherent danger: that device, which takes over command from the pilot, is a literal black-box of computer power and software code, and if that screws up, or if a sensor input into that ICU screws up, then the electronic control will push that nose over until you fly it into the ground (or sea, in the case of Lion Air).  So you have these pilots scared out of their wits up front yanking on that control yoke to try to get the nose up so they don't fly into some mountain, and this computer forcing the plane into terrain.  And eventually the machine, think HAL the Robot, wins out, overwhelms the pilots frantically yanking on the yoke, and down goes the airplane. 

Now Boeing has these two little toggle switches on the lower right of the console below the gear-down lever that the pilot can toggle down to disconnect this automatic system.  In theory, you toggle it off and then you can hand-fly it.  But remember the airplane is still "fly by wire," whatever input into the control yoke is made by the pilot is not mechanically being transmitted any more to the control surfaces, so you are still at the mercy of some other computer system, albeit less brutal that HAL the Robot that flies you straight into the ground.  Not much comfort, from where I sit.  And therein lies the conundrum:  the manufacturers try to reduce pilot workload and make it mistake-proof  (by using a computer to lower the nose), then the sensors and software cock up, and the frantic pilots forget about the disconnects in the mayhem and do not toggle off, and eventually it is a disaster.  

As to the problem of pilot shortage, Lufthansa now has a new system.  They hire guys with Zero Hours, who have never sat in an aircraft, send them off the FilghtSafety in Florida, they go through six months of training, and when they come out they are capable to be co-pilot  on a European commuter aircraft such as the 319 or 737.  That is working, but it is an expensive solution.  It requires the carrier to actually pay for the "education" of their personnel.  So far, no US carrier has adopted that approach.  They prefer to pilfer employees from the contract carriers, their traditional source of fresh, cheap labor.  Something to think about. 

My solution:  go by sea, go by train, or fly  your own machine.  At least I get my sleep!  Plus, I am rather good at this flying stuff, having done it for a few decades now.  Cheers.

Edited by Jan van Eck
Changed Comair to Colgan (carrier in Buffalo crash)
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Great comment, Jan.  Only one detail that's worth clearing up:

ECU = Engine Control Unit, emphasis Engine.  We also use similar engine control units called the MEC (Main Engine Control) and HMU (Hydro Mechanical Unit) and some OEMs call them different things and they operate is various different ways.

What you are referring to is the AOA sensor which works with the MCAS, which I pointed out in an earlier post.

Actions taken after Lion Air crash

While Monday’s notice from the FAA to MAX operators put off any action on the Ethiopian crash, it itemized a series of actions undertaken following the Lion Air crash.

A preliminary investigation into that accident pointed to a faulty “angle of attack” (AOA) sensor, which then activated a new flight control system on the MAX — called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) — that repeatedly pushed the nose of the aircraft down.

The FAA’s actions in response include an airworthiness directive in November that informed pilots of the standard procedure to handle a malfunction of that flight control system and ongoing work with Boeing to approve a redesign of the system that will enhance its safety.
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17 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

Great comment, Jan.  Only one detail that's worth clearing up:

ECU = Engine Control Unit, emphasis Engine.  We also use similar engine control units called the MEC (Main Engine Control) and HMU (Hydro Mechanical Unit) and some OEMs call them different things and they operate is various different ways.

What you are referring to is the AOA sensor which works with the MCAS, which I pointed out in an earlier post.

 

Yes, all correct, I was merely trying to give the micro-computer a little context to an environment that readers here might intuitively grasp. Getting hyper-technically correct has no benefit if the data gets so abstruse that it loses the reader!

OK, as to remedies:  hardly any need in my view to go ground the fleet.  Let's remember that the apparent culprit  (and I feel confident that this component is the culprit) is that MCAS.  There are only two sensors for the MCAS, so the software has NO algorithm to pinpoint a sensor failure  (either pitot tube or static port); to have an algorithm to reject a faulty input, you would need three sensor sets.  What Boeing is doing is what it and everyone else in the aviation business had done since "forever," it relies on the pilots as the redundancy system instead of an automated computer.  That implies that (1) the pilots can sense and decipher the anomaly or the erratic inputs, (2) have trained for that, and (3) know how to correct for that.  And that is where it falls apart:  nobody trains for such anomalies.  Indeed, with the autopilot system masking the error in the readout, you never see it until the autopilot disconnects at 25 feet off the ground on final. (At that point you have a hard landing, but nothing that even the pilots might react to).   Since nobody trains for this, and indeed there is not even any discussion in the Flight Manual on this, the problem is that it hits the pilots in an unexpected way, it becomes an anomaly that is so strange that they do not decipher the cause (computer failure) and do not know intuitively how to correct for it  (disconnect the system), until it is too late. 

So the interim solution is simple enough:  that MCAS system runs on electricity, and the electricity flows first through a circuit breaker panel with these little breakers that the pilot can grasp and pull out, thus manually actioning the breaker (similar to you going into your basement and manually flipping a breaker to OFF if you want to work on that wire).  Just fly the airplane without the MCAS operational and it will fly exactly the same as the thousands built previously, it will not be there to cause grief to the pilot.  OK, it means a little workload to keep the plane properly flying as to airspeed, center-of-gravity loading, trim, and angle of attack, but hey those guys do that all day long in all the other 737's out there, so what is the big deal?  Pull the breaker and remember, your job as pilot is to fly the airplane, not go play with electronics.  Especially electronics that is (obviously) unproven and has a defined error anomaly.  

What you are getting with the press and politicians is uninformed rubbish.  The plane itself will fly just fine, as long as it is manually flown by a competent pilot.  It has been that way with aircraft since about 1919.  'Nuff said.

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4 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Yes, all correct, I was merely trying to give the micro-computer a little context to an environment that readers here might intuitively grasp. Getting hyper-technically correct has no benefit if the data gets so abstruse that it loses the reader!

I think you give your readers too little credit.  But making a distinction between an airliner having a possible software/sensor problem and having an engine problem is important, and a big difference, and can lead to more fear where none is warranted.  There is way too much speculation as it is; we don't need to unintentionally add to the fray.  Sometimes it is better to be specific, or alternatively just keep it to "flight control systems" or "engine systems" and leave it at that.

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1 minute ago, Dan Warnick said:

I think you give your readers too little credit.  But making a distinction between an airliner having a possible software/sensor problem and having an engine problem is important, and a big difference, and can lead to more fear where none is warranted.  There is way too much speculation as it is; we don't need to unintentionally add to the fray.  Sometimes it is better to be specific, or alternatively just keep it to "flight control systems" or "engine systems" and leave it at that.

I give people outside the aviation world no credit at all.  They cannot even figure out how an airplane even flies  (admittedly an area of some dispute even within aviation circles).  Cheers. 

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4 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

So the interim solution is simple enough:  that MCAS system runs on electricity, and the electricity flows first through a circuit breaker panel with these little breakers that the pilot can grasp and pull out, thus manually actioning the breaker (similar to you going into your basement and manually flipping a breaker to OFF if you want to work on that wire).  Just fly the airplane without the MCAS operational and it will fly exactly the same as the thousands built previously, it will not be there to cause grief to the pilot.  OK, it means a little workload to keep the plane properly flying as to airspeed, center-of-gravity loading, trim, and angle of attack, but hey those guys do that all day long in all the other 737's out there, so what is the big deal?  Pull the breaker and remember, your job as pilot is to fly the airplane, not go play with electronics.  Especially electronics that is (obviously) unproven and has a defined error anomaly.  

Your solution certainly sounds good and may in fact be what ends up happening until they can work out the bugs with the new system.

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(edited)

7 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

Your solution certainly sounds good and may in fact be what ends up happening until they can work out the bugs with the new system.

They won't do that.  And the reason is that regulatory bureaucracies will take the position that, if the system is on the aircraft, then it has to work.  So the air carriers would have to physically remove the system from the plane, and whatever indicators are on the plane, as inoperable systems are a bureaucratic Verboten.  There is no real logic to that, but that is the way that bureaucracies develop.  

If your car has an ABS braking system, and you bring it in for the annual inspection, and the ABS system is not working (and illuminates that dash light that tells the mechanic that), will it pass inspection.  No chance.  Yet, cars have been built for 75 years with no Anti-Skid Braking, and when ABS does not work, the car reverts back to an ordinary brake system.  Anybody can drive without ABS, just for the unskilled, it makes control in slippery conditions a bit easier, the idea being to keep you out of the ditch. But you still cannot get a Pass Sticker from the government if the system is inoperative.  Same with airplanes.  If your airplane has retract wheels, and the retract system does not work, can you fly it legally as a fixed-gear plane?  Nope.  (It still flies just fine, but not legal). 

PS:   I would add that, "if" the Regulators in each country had NOT issued the ADs grounding the MAXX 8/9, "then" the carriers themselves could have pulled the breakers, as it is not a flight-critical system.  But, having declared it unairworthy, the breaker-pull fix cannot be used and the aircraft flown in revenue service.  Oh, well.  

Edited by Jan van Eck
Added P.S.
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14 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

I think you give your readers too little credit.  But making a distinction between an airliner having a possible software/sensor problem and having an engine problem is important, and a big difference, and can lead to more fear where none is warranted.  There is way too much speculation as it is; we don't need to unintentionally add to the fray.  Sometimes it is better to be specific, or alternatively just keep it to "flight control systems" or "engine systems" and leave it at that.

To understand the lack of knowledge of the public and the reaction of regulators and the public, I refer you to the crash of US Air #1549, the Chesley Sullenberger splash into the Hudson River in New York.  You will recall that the aircraft hit s large flight of geese at 3,000 feet over Westchester County, knocking out both engines.  In that event, the FO  (Jeffrey Stiles) was "flying."  Jeffrey is a highly skilled pilot, but on this day he was in my view not really flying the airplane.  That machine has a "flight director" computer that is controlled by dial-in input settings, connected to GPS systems and airway electronic ground beacons, and you dial in the altitude and heading and the auto-pilot flies it if you do not want to hand-fly.  Even if hand-flying, there is this tendency to rely on instruments and nobody is looking out the window.   Each engine ingested at least two large geese, a literally one in a billion chance, given that the engines are so widely spaced on the Airbus.  OK, so if you are going to eat geese, that has to be a very large flock, and at 3,000 ft AGL you are going to see that flock as a huge black cluster on the horizon - if you are looking out the window.  Nobody was looking, so in reality nobody was really flying the airplane. 

Now meanwhile that aircraft is on a take-off yet is being held at a low altitude by ATC.  Why are the controllers doing that?  If you are going to direct an aircraft away from the field, beyond glide range, then it had better have good altitude first.  1549 got held to 3,000 because ATC has these departure paths to avoid having a straight-out departure to altitude, say to 16,000 feet.  That is to have inbounds be able to land without going over the land with all the houses, and the attendant noise. So non-aviation decisions are being made due to public pressure over the flight paths.  Everybody gets complacent and assumes nothing goes wrong, and when it does, there is no margin for error and you cannot get back to the field.  Even if they could get back to Runway 14 at LaGuardia, there is no guarantee it would be cleared for their imminent arrival, lots of planes scattered about on that busy field. And if they did manage to land it, there are no thrust reversers, no flaps, a high landing speed, and a good chance of over-run back into Flushing Bay.  Hard to drop into Teterboro unless you had lots of altitude to work with.  But if they had altitude, then they could glide over to Kennedy International and then have a 12,000 foot runway to work with, big enough to handle the Concorde and the A-380, could have dead-sticked into there easily enough.  So the denial of altitude by ATC is a huge factor in forcing that planed into the drink.  Nobody wants to admit to that, however.   Bureaucrats.

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